cleaning jewelry

Care and cleaning of  the Family Jewels

Valentine's Day is right around the corner. Chances are you've got some sparkly jewelry in your future. 

But remember: A diamond is forever only if you take good care of it. And gold, silver, diamond rings, opals, pearls, and gemstones each have special requirements for cleaning - and storage.

Fine jewelry warrants the finest fare. This guide to cleaning jewelry will help keep your precious pieces sparkling. 

Take Jewelry Off Sometimes

No jewelry - not even your wedding ring - should be worn all the time. All stones (including diamonds and sapphires) can chip.

And gold, silver, and platinum are easily scratched. Harsh chemicals can damage both stones and metals.

So take rings off when you do hard work or work out hard. (If you lose a stone, you'll never find it.)

You should also take them off when you clean the house or garden.

Household cleaners can damage beautiful stones and settings - and you run the risk of catching it on something.

You'll also want to shed the family jewels when you bathe, swim, or soak in the hot tub (chlorine can damage stones and metals) and when you go to the beach - salt is also hard on these pieces.

We often don't take these pricey pieces off for fear of losing them.

To get around that concern, consider placing a simple ring holder where you normally would take off your rings. Then the rings don't go down the drain, and you always know where you put them.

Cleaning Jewelry of Oily Buildup

Clean your jewelry occasionally to remove grunge around settings and to remove oily buildup that dulls the sheen.

Cleaning tips: Most jewelry can be cleaned by soaking for a few minutes in a bowl of lukewarm water with a little dish-washing detergent and scrubbing gently with a toothbrush. (Never use toothpaste - it's too abrasive.)

Jewelry cleaning by type:

  • Silver: If you use silver polish or other jewelry cleaner, be careful not to get it on the stones. Polish with a soft all-cotton cloth as paper can scratch the silver.
  • Gold: Let soak in soapy water. If gold chains become tangled or knotted, apply a drop of baby oil and unravel with needles.
  • Diamonds: A little ammonia in water will remove any oily film.
  • Crystals (rubies, sapphires, etc.): Soak for just a few minutes in a warm solution of dish detergent and water and scrub gently with a toothbrush. Polish dry with a clean cotton cloth.
  • Opaque stones (turquoise, malachite, onyx, lapis, etc.): These are rocks, not crystals, so they are absorbent. Do not soak or expose them to ammonia or any other chemicals. Just polish them with a soft dry cloth.
  • Opals: Clean these fragile stones with soapy water and quickly wipe dry. Do not clean in an ultrasonic cleaner and do not expose to ammonia.
  • Pearls: Do not soak pearls. Wipe clean with a moist cloth. The beads get better and more lustrous with exposure to the skin's natural oils. Do not wear these absorbent jewels in the shower or while cooking. Restring once a year.
  • Emeralds: Cleaning these soft stones requires nothing more than lint-free cotton cloth.

Storing Jewelry Safely

Resist the urge to toss your jewelry into the bottom of a jewelry box. Not only do chains get tangled, but the gems can be damaged.

 Diamonds and sapphires can scratch metals and other gemstones.

Here's how to store your good stuff:

  • Store jewelry individually in soft fabric bags in a cool, dark place.
  • Light causes silver to tarnish, so store silver rings, bracelets, and earrings individually in tarnish-preventing bags.
  • Store gold jewelry in chamois to protect its luster.
  • Store bead necklaces flat because the silk string will stretch over time.
  • Do not store pearls in plastic bags; chamois is best.
  • Store opals in a cool, dark place; they will dry out if exposed to light.

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